Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) yesterday announced a federal funding opportunity (FFO) that will provide a maximum of $30 million to fund research projects designed to accelerate innovation in six key technology areas, including mission-critical voice, public-safety analytics and resilient systems.

This funding opportunity represents the initial significant PSCR initiative funded by $300 million that was included in the legislation passed in 2012 that created FirstNet, according to PSCR Division Chief Dereck Orr.

“This is really the first major injection of funds into external resources to help address the [research and development] needs that we’ve been talking about since we started our roadmapping effort back in 2013,” Orr said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications, noting the foundational outreach efforts that the organization has taken to prepare for this funding opportunity. “We’re well informed on the areas where we know we need people to get to work and start looking at the issues and the potential solutions.

“This is geared toward really expanding the number of entities—whether it be a company or an academic institution—and getting more people involved in exploring these core research topic areas … It will help us better understand where the gaps are, so we can—in [the long-term future]—apply those funds to addressing those gaps. But first, we just need a lot of eyes looking at all of these subject matters and getting a better understanding of all these critical areas that we’ve identified.”

Any non-federal-government entity can apply for the program awards, which will range from $10,000 to $1 million annually, according to statement from PSCR. Research initiatives will be funded for a two-year period, although funding can be extended to a three-year period for projects led by university PhD students.

Applications are due on Feb. 28, with detailed procedural information available at www.grants.gov and www.pscr.gov.

Projects securing an award should “accelerate research, development, production, and testing of key broadband technologies and capabilities for first responders,” according to the official notice for the funding opportunity. Part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program, the federal funding opportunity seeks research proposals in six technology areas:

  • Mission-critical voice,
  • Location-based services,
  • Public-safety analytics,
  • Communications-demand modeling,
  • Research and prototyping platforms and
  • Resilient systems.

Proposals can address only a given technology area—even an objective identified within a technology—or can address multiple technology areas, according to the funding-opportunity notice. Proposals need to address one of the technology areas, but applicants are not limited to projects addressing only the listed sub-elements within a topic area, Orr said.

 “Somebody out there might have a great idea that we didn’t think of, and they can submit it,” he said. “They are not limited to those sub-categories [cited in the notice].”